Kenya in new plan to curb coffee smuggling

Tuesday December 19 2017

A farmer tending to coffee berries. Farmers in parts of Kenya are selling coffee berries to brokers for instant payment. PHOTO FILE | NATION


Kenya is considering new measures to stop smuggling of coffee into Uganda, an activity carried out by farmers selling fresh coffee cherries to middlemen, who transport it across the border on trucks and motorcycles.

According to the Coffee Directorate, a department of Kenya’s Agriculture Food and Fisheries Authority that regulates trade in the commodity, the farmers are attracted to the instant payment across the border.

But what has aroused interest this time is the media reports that the Kenyan coffee is going for as much as Ksh250 ($2.5) for a kilogramme of cherry across the border.

The highest farmers receive in Kenya is about Ksh133 ($1.3) for a kilo. The Coffee Directorate, however, dismissed this as false, sayings the unit of measure used by the middlemen was “expanded 2kg cans.”

Systemic delays

The directorate said the illegal sales, blamed on systemic payment delays that range from six to eight months, had only a minimal effect on production. To counter this, the directorate proposes a new model.


“Introduce cash advances against cherry deliveries to reduce the systemic delays,” it recommends in a December 5 report.

A task force appointed to look into the coffee sector by President Uhuru Kenyatta recommended the introduction of a central depository unit, where every grower has an account in which money from coffee deliveries is deposited once their produce is sold.

Officials of co-operative societies, through which smallholder farmers market their coffee, have opposed the idea, saying it will kill the unions since members will default in repaying their loans.


Owing to delays in paying farmers for their deliveries, some growers especially in central Kenya, where most of the country’s coffee is grown, have been selling their fresh cherries to brokers. The brokers then sell the same crop to their co-operative societies.

Hawking of coffee cherries has been going on unabated but counties such as Meru have started piloting the Ethiopian coffee industry cash model, where farmers receive their money after delivering their beans.

Governor Kiraitu Murungi, who had visited Ethiopia, said the pilot project will start in April next year with growers receiving their money 30 days after their coffee has been sold.

In their report the Coffee Directorate has suggested that there should be closer collaboration between their officials and the security apparatus on one hand and the Kenya Revenue Authority in a bid to stop the illegal trade.

They have identified various hotspots as reported in the media, which they say their team intends to visit to assess the situation on the ground. The areas include Luahaha, Silisia and Chepkube.

But the visits, their officials will have talks with both the County Commissioners and the Sub-County Commissioners.

READ: Reasons Kenyan coffee has become a tough sell

READ: Kenya sleeps, Uganda wakes up and smells the coffee

ALSO READ: Uganda’s tea sector faces hard times this year